LONDON: Alastair Cook marked his 291st and final Test innings in fairytale fashion with a memorable century before England set India a daunting 464-run target on the fourth day of the fifth Test on Monday.
England’s most-capped Test player and record run scorer began the day 46 not out and rolled back the years as he cruised to a 33rd Test century before lunch.
He was finally out for 147, caught behind off the bowling of spinner Hanuma Vihari.
Joe Root had departed the ball before for 125, top-edging Vihari to deep mid-wicket to end a third-wicket partnership of 259 with the man he replaced as captain last year.
It was a welcome return to form for Root who had gone a year without a Test century and eight innings without a half century.
Cook’s exit prompted a flurry of wickets with paceman Mohammed Shami bowling Jonny Bairstow for 18 and Jos Buttler lobbing up a catch to Shami off Ravindra Jadeja for a duck.
Ben Stokes (37) and Sam Curran (21) took England’s lead beyond 400 by tea before Root closed the innings at 423-8.
England took an unassailable 3-1 lead against the top-ranked Test nation with victory in Southampton so the series climax became the Alastair Cook show following his decision to call time on his 12-year international career.
Tickets for Cook’s final bow in his 161st Test match were being snapped up outside the historic south London ground on Monday.
The sizeable fourth day crowd, the vast majority in their seats before the start, were not to be disappointed.
Just as on Friday when Cook made 71 the 33-year-old was treated to a succession of rousing standing ovations — seven in total on a day that will go down in English cricket folklore.
The first greeted his arrival at the crease, another broke out when he reached 50 with a trademark boundary nudged off his legs and another arrived when he got to 76 to move past Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara into fifth on the all-time list of Test run scorers and become the highest-scoring Test left-hander.
The loudest and most prolonged, however, was reserved for the special moment Cook reached his 33rd Test century, albeit in farcical circumstances.
On 96 he worked spinner Jadeja for a comfortable single but Jasprit Bumrah’s wild throw in from the outfield went skidding through for four overthrows.
Cook’s face broke into a broad smile and he removed his helmet, raising his bat to acknowledge the crowd before getting a hearty hug from Root.
The nervous tension disappeared after lunch as Cook and Root piled on the misery for a flagging Indian attack.
With 218 runs in his last match Cook guaranteed he will retire with a Test average of 45.
And fittingly his final contribution for his country with the bat was a century against India — the team he scored a debut century against 12 years ago in Nagpur.
His total of 12,472 Test runs puts him behind only India’s Sachin Tendulkar, Australian Ricky Ponting, South Africa’s Jacques Kallis and India’s Rahul Dravid on the all-time list.
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 332 (J.C. Buttler 89, A.N. Cook 71, Moeen Ali 50; R.A. Jadeja 4-79, I. Sharma 3-62, J.J. Bumrah 3-89).
INDIA (1st Innings) 292 (R.A. Jadeja 86 not out, G.H. Vihari 56)
ENGLAND (2nd Innings, overnight 114-2):
A.N. Cook c Pant b Vihari 147
K.K. Jennings b Shami 10
Moeen Ali b Jadeja 20
J.E. Root c sub b Vihari 125
J.M. Bairstow b Shami 18
B.A. Stokes c Rahul b Jadeja 37
J.C. Buttler c Shami b Jadeja 0
S.M. Curran c Pant b Vihari 21
A.U. Rashid not out 20
EXTRAS (B-14, LB-4, W-2, PEN-5) 25
TOTAL (for eight wkts decl, 112.3 over) 364
FALL OF WKTS: 1-27, 2-62, 3-321, 4-321, 5-355, 6-356, 7-397, 9-423.
BOWLING: Bumrah 23-4-61-0 (1w); Sharma
8-3-13-0; Mohammed Shami 25-3-110-2; Jadeja 47-3-179-2; Vihari 9.3-1-37-3 (1w).
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018